A Perspective on Business Travel

Imagine yourself traveling, tired, stressed, with your mind is preoccupied with thoughts. To add to it, the process at the airport where you have to line up, the lines move slowly, security checks, waiting for your luggage, and other such experiences lead to an unpleasant airport service. Travel is stressful, and airports are typically stressful and emotional places. This usually leads to a overall customer experience that is less than desirable, and one that most would not like to repeat.

What If an Airport Converts Itself Into a Destination?

The Changi Airport in Singapore combines the thrills of an amusement park, the comfort of a luxury resort, and the intrigue of a massive shopping mall, while also capably performing the duties of a busy airport as well. Changi airport has amazing shopping and dining experiences, a swimming pool, napping rooms, spa treatments, movie theaters, video gaming stations, and a slide that zooms travelers from the third story of an enormous terminal down to the first. It even contains a real butterfly garden with a profusion of flowering plants, lush greenery, and an indoor waterfall.

Ever since Changi’s humble beginnings in 1981, it has turned into the global standard for functionality, aesthetics, and service. It ranks as the world’s sixth busiest airport, surprising and delighting more than 42 million travelers a year. That’s seven times more people than Singapore’s entire population!

The Changi family is able to deliver exceptional service because their Quality Service Management focuses on customer-centricity in all their activities. It’s based on their three key thrusts: Personalized, Stress-Free, and Positively Surprising.

Travelers fall in love with Changi because the airport has built an uplifting service culture. What is that? Uplifting service cultures create customer loyalty;it unites and engages employees, accelerates teamwork, adds value to a product, and creates a sustainable competitive advantage. The impact of creating an uplifting service culture is much bigger than even that.

In an attempt to understand an uplifting service culture, let’s take the simple route.

Starting with, what is service?

Service means the action of helping or doing work for someone. Now this sounds like a old outdated answer, let’s step up to today’s definition. Service is the act of helping to create value for someone else. It is not a change in the working model but a change in the mindset, which ends up benefiting you through your service.

Next, what is service culture?

Service culture can be understood as a culture adopted by service-providing organizations, whose focus is customer-centric. Here, the employees of the organization are trained and rewarded to inculcate the approach of putting the customers’ needs first, while performing their regular roles at work.

Finally, what is uplifting service culture?

To understand uplifting service culture, one must interview any random traveller about their experience at Changi airport, as compared to any other airport. The reply would indicate a very high percentage of customer satisfaction, a high score on the customer happiness meter, along with a desire to revisit and recommend fellow travellers to experience exceptional service. This reply clearly shows that the Changi Airport service model has several relevant business lessons for Customer Success.

62.2 million passengers in 2017, 7200 flights every week, 400 connected cities worldwide… What do these figures represent? These figures state that the service culture is so very ingrained in their modus operandi that the volume or quantity of travellers doesn’t influence the quality of service. The obvious question that comes to mind is, how do they do it?

The staff count at Changi is within 2k employees and more than 200 companies align themselves towards the goal of providing quality service. Despite the volume, they provide speedy and smooth functioning, which is the result of their highly disciplined process design. It’s even subject to constant redesign to refine the customer experience as needed. Importance is given to every detail; nothing is too big or small an issue, but every issue is carefully handled. Changi ranks high in uplifting service culture, and does it while keeping in mind cost containment.

Contact with travelers, and the passion to enhance every touchpoint of the customer’s journey is the key factor in delivering the Changi experience. They gather copious amounts of data about their customers’ experience by directly interacting with customers, and placing customer feedback survey screens across multiple areas in the airport. Every individual working at the airport company be it at customs, restaurants, retailers, at the gate or the toilet is focused towards optimizing the overall customer experience. Their knowledge is not confined to their work in their department alone.

The Changi Airport Toilet Survey

The Service Workforce Instant Feedback Transformation System, dubbed SWIFT by the Changi Airport Group (CAG), includes two components – an instant feedback system and e-Inspection. It has an amazing 360°
user focus of the toilet management. The staff for toilet cleaning have been equipped with a smartphone, allowing them to conduct routine inspections and report faults using the software.

The three main components on which a business survives and succeeds is the product, delivery system, and service. Customer Success believes that its goal is to make the customer successful by using their product. The progress factor doesn’t merely depend on delivering a good product to the end user, but a constant uplifting of the service that’s been provided. Service plays an important role. Even when a product is not of very high standards, it can survive in the market if it’s backed by quick and efficient service. A brilliantly-functioning product could fail due to weak service.

The Customer Success dictionary is full of terminology like Customer Experience Management (CEM/CXM), Customer Effort Score (CES), Customer Feedback Metrics (CFM), Customer Health Score (CHS), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), and Customer Happiness. These highlight the fact that CS is customer-centric in its service pattern.

Upon close observation, it appears as if Changi’s three key thrust (Personalized, Stress-Free, and Positively Surprising) are in fact the same ingredients already used by Customer Success companies!

Personalized: Every customer is unique, so the product is redesigned to meet the customer’s needs. CS has the drive to enhance every touchpoint of the customer’s journey, right from the time of onboarding, to training, and the multiple number of engagements as and when required by customers.

Stress-Free: Customer Success, through their proactive approach, helps in delivering better service before the customer knows they need it. Customer stress can be reduced by facilitating a smoothly functioning product, anticipating needs, and responding to tickets quickly. Eliminating sources of conflict or stress allows customers to never get to a feeling of dissatisfaction or doubt about your offering.

Positively Surprising: CS teams come up with creative ideas to add value to the customer experience. Giving unasked positive surprises, keeps the customer happy and benefits CS in return by strengthening the bond between the CSM and the customer.

Customer Success companies have always known that they need to emphasize serving users effectively, and make the process more proactive, instead of reactive. The lesson they need to learn from Changi is not to merely serve, but to build in a service culture, and then move towards constantly improving it. It’s about inculcating a new approach or mindset in the way we serve our customers. Every department must be synced with one another, and lined up to one single philosophy – to serve customers in away that generates value.

Changi’s uplifting service culture imparts other lessons for CS, like paying attention to every small detail, and focusing on feedback surveys. The most important lesson is adopting a service culture as a mission, in which every member, right from the leaders to employees, abides by it. To let this culture grow, even new hires must be trained to adopt it, and ones who have served exceptionally well should have their contributions highlighted and rewarded.

Michael Cormier

VP of Operations, Strikedeck